UTAH CHAMBER ARTISTS Barlow Bradford conductor, First Presbyterian Church, South Temple and C Street, Monday Dec. 7, 1998. Additional performance Tuesday, Dec. 8. Tickets available at the door.

Beginning with Daniel Pinkham's stark and majestic "Christmas Cantata," the Utah Chamber Artists sang a varied program that ended with the carol "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year."Following the Pinkham, the choir and orchestra gave life to John Rutter's "Magnificat" and showcased the composer's sensitive simplicity. Soprano Melinda Kirgin-Voss took the solo part with grace and ease. Although her voice was a bit rough in the lower registers, she had a piercingly clear tone and excellent musicality. The first movement, "Et Misericordia," was soothing and tender, and the choir achieved a warm blend.

The "Magnificat anima mea" movement pulsated with joy. Vocals soared over a buzzing orchestra, and the slower parts had an ethereal quality and built nicely to a brilliant climax. The choir was its most musical in the "Esurientes" movement, creating a feeling of longing with their exquisite blend and phrasing.

"Shepherd Story," by J.A.C. Redford, was filled with childlike wonder and had a range of dynamics from quiet spoken words to full-voiced fortissimo. Conductor Barlow Bradford's articulation kept the piece interesting and light. Redford's music has an innocent Kurt Bestor-like quality that fit the festive holiday mood of the concert's second half.

After intermission, the choir sang Christmas carols, including two arrangements by Bradford. The dark, serious, and at times, ethereal harmonies of "What Child is This" sounded a lot like Bradford's "Five Sacred Songs." "Baby, Let it Snow," arranged by choir-member Erin Judd, preceded Bradford's "Merry Little Christmas" and set the mood with its jazzy feel.

Sandwiched between the arrangements by Bradford and Judd were three lesser known Christmas songs. Herbert Howles' a cappella carol "A Spotless Rose" had a pervading sense of motion and substantial dynamic contrast. Rutter's bossa nova number, "Jesus Child," used maracas and claves, and Bradford kept the rhythms sharp and punchy while maintaining the piece's melodic qualities. "Gesu Bambino," by Pietro Yon, was pure sweetness.

The standing ovation after the final number caught the group without a prepared encore. Bradford, who also conducts the Utah Philharmonia and was just named associate conductor of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, led the audience, choir and orchestra in "Silent Night."